Microsoft Visual Studio 11 enhances productivity, reduces distractions

Visual Studio team focuses its efforts on three core themes

Microsoft will deliver betas of both its integrated development environment (IDE), code-named Visual Studio 11, and .NET Framework 4.5 on Wednesday, Feb. 29.

The Visual Studio team, according to Microsoft, has focused its efforts on three core themes in the forthcoming release: helping developers build modern consumer and business applications, providing a simplified and distraction-free environment for maximum productivity and enabling collaborative and agile development teams.

"We undertook building Visual Studio 11 with a focus on offering today's software developer the very best environment for efficiently building applications-for both businesses and consumers," says S. Somsegar, corporate vice president, Developer Division, Microsoft. "In addition, our work has been highly influenced by the proliferation of devices and a passion for enabling developers to focus on building high-quality, modern applications with data that seamlessly flows from one device to another, easily incorporating intuitive interfaces such as touch and voice. We want developers to be productive in building such applications, whether they're using C++, JavaScript, Visual Basic or C#."

Somasegar says Visual Studio 11 will embrace the whole spectrum of developers, from professionals working on mission-critical business applications to amateurs writing mobile apps in their spare time.

"Historically, the Developer Division at Microsoft focused entirely on the "professional developer," on the approximately 10 million people that built software as their primary vocation," Somasegar says. "Over the last few years, however, the software development landscape has significantly changed. What used to be 10 million developers is now upwards of 100 million, spanning not only "professional developers," but also students, entrepreneurs and in general people who want to build an app and put it up on an app store. From professionals to hobbyists, developers today build applications that span from the business world to the consumer world and that run on a wide range of client and server platforms and devices."

Visual Studio 11 Closes the Gap

The new IDE also focuses on what Microsoft calls "continuous value delivery," closing the loop between development and DevOps, explains Jason Zander, corporate vice president, Visual Studio. Zander says the IDE provides an experience that spans the lifecycle of software creation from architecture and user interface design to code creation, insight and analysis, deployment, testing and validation. It uses application lifecycle management (ALM) capabilities to help project stakeholders keep their efforts in synch at each step.

"In the Visual Studio 11 release, we're providing a continuous flow of value, allowing teams to use agile processes and gather feedback early and often," explains Jason Zander, corporate vice president, Visual Studio. "Storyboarding and Feedback Manager enable development teams to react rapidly to change, allowing stakeholder requirements to be captured and traced throughout the entire delivery cycle. Visual Studio 11 also introduces support for teams working together in the DevOps cycle. IntelliTrace in production allows teams to debug issues that occur on production servers, which is a key capability for software teams delivering services."

Visual Studio Collaboration

The Visual Studio 11 Team Foundation Server (TFS) Beta will serve as the collaboration hub at the center of the Visual Studio ALM solution, giving teams the ability to track projects through each stage of software development, from keeping tabs on version control to continually deploying software updates.

For teams that want to give TFS a test drive, Microsoft will roll out Team Foundation Server Express with the beta. TFS Express, which is free to individuals and teams of up to five members, includes core developer features such as Source Code Control, Work Item Tracking, Build Automation and Agile Taskboard.

"Between Visual Studio Express and Team Foundation Server Express, we've got everything you need to get started in a frictionless way," Somasegar says.

The beta release will also include support for Windows 8 and web development in Visual Studio Express for Windows 8 and Visual Studio 11 Express for Web, respectively. Somasegar promises the Visual Studio team is working closely with the Windows team.

"We are definitely in synch with the Windows team for the Windows 8 product cycle," he says.

The new features in Visual Studio 11 include the following:

-- Reduced toolbar commands. The team has reduced the number of default commands that appear on toolbars in the user interface in an effort to create a larger and less cluttered default work area. For instance, the cut, copy and paste toolbar commands were removed because the team's research showed most developers use the keyboard shortcuts instead. Developers can still access the commands through drop-down menus or add them back to the toolbar if desired.

-- Simplified graphics. With an eye toward helping developers focus on their content rather than the user interface, the team has eliminated the use of color within tools, except where it is used for notification or status change purposes. The team has also attempted to make the interface less distracting by simplifying other user interface graphics, like line work and iconography.

-- Comprehensive search. This new capability gives developers the ability to quickly find what they're looking for within commands and configuration options, tool windows and open files.

-- Workflow hubs. In an effort to streamline common tasks, these new workflow hubs combine them into one simplified window so developers aren't forced to interact with two or more tool windows to accomplish tasks.

-- Preview tabs. These new tabs give developers the ability to view the content of documents and are reused as the developer works, meaning developers no longer end up with large numbers of extraneous documents open as a byproduct of tasks like debugging or browsing results.

-- "We know that developers can lose a lot of their time just orienting themselves to a project and the tools they are working with," Zander says. "By refreshing the user interface, we've made much of the core functionality easier for a developer to find and use quickly, helping maintain concentration."

New in .NET Framework

The beta will also showcase enhancements to the .NET Framework 4.5. The team added built-in C# and Visual Basic support for writing asynchronous code. Additionally, it has integrated Type Providers with F# to make data access a simple matter in F# programs and components. The team also overhauled the Common Language Runtime to provide better performance, particularly for server applications and services. It has added background server garbage collection, multicore background JIT compilation and profile-guided optimization to help managed applications start faster and run with better throughput and lower latency. It has also built on .NET's support for networking libraries, including support for modern HTTP libraries and WebSockets.

Other .NET Framework improvements include regular expression processing and better support for compression standards, enhanced HTML5 support, developer productivity enhancements in Entity Framework and optimized mobile experiences through ASP.NET.

The Visual Studio 11 Beta and .NET Framework 4.5 Beta will be released with a "go live" license that allows users to install them in a production environment.

Thor Olavsrud is a senior writer for CIO.com. Follow him @ThorOlavsrud.

More about: Agile, Microsoft, TFS
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